When we began testing the Toyota Camry Sportivo V6 we made it our mission to
give the sporty Toyota sedan a decisive thumbs-up
or thumbs-down. We were tired of reading that it’s “worthy of consideration”,
“one to look at” or “a safe buy”.
Well, as we discovered, the Camry Sportivo isn’t so easy to basket...
At AUD$38,500 in automatic form, the 2005 Camry Sportivo V6 undercuts the
rival Mitsubishi Magna VR-X, Ford Falcon XR6 and comparable Holden Commodore
models. If you’re stretching the budget to afford this type of vehicle, the
Toyota starts the competition in
Number One spot.
It’s a pity everything else about it is merely average.
The 3.0 litre, DOHC, 24 valve V6 (available as an option over the base 2.4
litre VVT-i four-cylinder) is a carryover from the previous generation Camry.
This aging engine doesn’t have variable cam timing or electronic throttle
control (both are fitted to some of its rivals), but the Sportivo version receives a
high-flow rear muffler for a 4kW gain over cooking models. Peak power is 145kW
at 5200 rpm and there’s 284Nm of slog at 4400 rpm. To put this into context, the
Magna VR-X stomps out 163kW/317Nm and the Falcon XR6 a whopping 182kW/380Nm...
With 1530kg to shift and driving through a 4 speed automatic transmission,
our test car ran mid 9 second 0 – 100 km/h sprints. Some attempts stretched to
almost 10.0 seconds, which is disappointing for an Australian sedan with
But focussing on peak power and performance is to sell the Toyota V6 short.
It’s a refined and sweet engine with spritely mid-range thrust. The V6/auto
combo also works very well - it does the job quietly, effortlessly and it never
lumbers in a too-high gear. The transmission is nicely calibrated but the
absence of a sequential shifter is a major shortcoming. A switchable overdrive
doesn’t cut it anymore.
With the lightest kerb mass and smallest engine capacity among its rivals,
the Sportivo V6 should have a
distinct fuel consumption advantage. However, during our test, the Sportivo
drank over 12.5 litres of unleaded per 100km - pretty average for the class.
The Camry Sportivo is an enjoyable front-wheel-drive to punt through corners.
The power-assisted rack and pinion steering offers beautiful feel and weighting,
which is essential for finger-tip feedback on when the front tyres are losing
grip. The steering really plays a big part of the Sportivo’s driving appeal.
Understeer is the Camry’s naturally tendency, but with the Sportivo sports-tuned
suspension and front strut brace, the 205/60 Michelin Vivacy tyres offer good
front-end grip. The Sportivo can power out of tight corners with less inside
front wheelspin than the Magna VR-X. Note that there’s no traction control or
The ABS-controlled ventilated front and solid disc brakes performed well
during our test – but they look puny when viewed through the wheel spokes.
Our biggest gripe with the Camry chassis is the firmness of its damping over
sharp road irregularities at urban speeds. Toyota claims compression damping at
some piston velocities is doubled compared to previous generation Camry Touring – we think we they a bit too
far... Road joins and potholes send a shock through to the cabin, which often
causes the doors to rattle in their frames and the sunroof to ka-thunk.
Aside from the electric tilt and slide sunroof, the cabin of our Camry
Sportivo was all standard – and it has everything you’d want. The digital
climate control is easy to use, as is the punchy 6 stack CD sound system – both
share large buttons and a refreshingly uncluttered layout. Unfortunately, you
need to stretch for the buttons on the far side of the radio and the handbrake
lever is awkwardly mounted on the opposite of the centre console – care must be
taken not to inadvertently grab the front passenger’s leg... Other standard
features include four airbags, power windows and mirrors, tachometer, remote
alarm/locking, cruise control (which surges on undulating roads), rear passenger
vents and a trip computer with over-speed chime. The adjustable brightness of
the vanity mirror illumination is a neat idea. It’s a comfortable, quiet car
with the exception of some wind noise and an occasional aerodynamic howl when
the sunroof is opened. The sports-spec muffler is completely unobtrusive.
Sportivo models are packed with sports front seats, which offer good
long-distance comfort, adequate lateral support and adjustable lumbar support.
The high-quality touchy-feely theme continues with a leather-wrapped sports
steering wheel, gear selector, handbrake lever and aluminium-look pedals. All V6
Camry models are fitted with an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, but we
struggled to find a comfortable driving position due to the lack of lower
cushion angle adjustment. Sportivos also receive gunmetal coloured trim pieces,
a silver-faced instrument cluster and ‘Sportivo’ scuff plates, which are a nice
touch that you notice when stepping in and out.
The Camry cabin offers impressive space in all directions and an airy feel –
especially with the optional sunroof. Rear space is particularly impressive with
headroom, knee and foot room to accommodate people more than 190cm tall.
The Camry boot is also gigantic. The boot has a perfectly flat floor (which
hides a full-size alloy spare wheel) but the area of through-access into the
cabin is limited by the metal structure of the vehicle. The rear seat backrests
are 60:40 split.
The corollary of the Camry’s exceptional headroom is a tall body profile that
looks slab-sided. The Sportivo takes attention away from this using a subtle
rear spoiler, skirts, front bumper lip, integrated fog lights, unique headlights
and grille. Toyota literature
indicates these aero add-ons cause no change to the base Camry’s 0.29 Cd.
Sixteen inch alloy wheels and a chrome muffler tip add to the bling tally. Oh,
and look closely to find the recently Camry facelift – there’s a revised front
cowl and lights.
Our test car was built to a very high standard overall but there were a
couple of concerns. A previous driver had scraped the front bumper lip, which
caused one of the side attachment points to pull out from the bumper. There were
also scratches on some of the plastic surfaces inside the cabin and the engine
failed to start first time on several occasions. The Camry is backed by a 3
year/100,000km warranty – the same as Ford and Holden competitors, but short of
Mitsubishi’s stunning new 5 year/130,000km coverage.
So which way do our thumbs point for the Toyota Camry Sportivo V6? Well,
certainly not downward. It’s by no means a bad car and its price advantage
is undeniable. On the other hand, it lacks any distinction in its class and its
technology is dated.
Much to our annoyance, we’ll have to join the people sitting on the fence
with this one...
The Camry Sportivo V6 was provided for this test by